Dynamite Jack is Phil Hassey’s newest IP after the incredibly popular real-time strategy series; Galcon. With Dynamite Jack, you play as a torch-wielding marine stuck in some dingy underground mining facility swarming with aliens and evil guards. With the help of some craftily-placed bombs, you need to get out of this place by finding the glowing exit at the end of each level. It is apparent that in creating Dynamite Jack, Hassey wanted to steer away from the purely strategical side of the Galcon games by incorporating a bit of action and introducing a playable character. Unfortunately, the result is a very repetitive and hardly challenging experience that’s got some good looks going for it, but not the gameplay to back it up.
Dynamite Jack Gameplay
Dynamite Jack mimics those small browser games where you have to avoid a teacher in a classroom, or security guards and cameras in a bank robbery. The one main similarity being that the line of sight of the people you are trying to evade is represented by a coloured cone that pivots around the character, letting you know which way they are looking. This enables you to avoid their line of sight and so sneak past enemies without being seen.
This is exactly what Dynamite Jack is all about. Guards move in predictable patterns and shoot you down if you so much as step into their view, whereas scientists will zap you if you enter a lit area near them, no matter which way they are looking. It’s certainly a clever mechanic and useful for stealthy manoeuvres.
However, the game’s second mechanic almost obliterates the potential excitement garnered from the stealth in the game, quite literally. When you pick up a detonator you have the ability to place and activate bombs. Not only are these useful for breaking down rock walls, but also for killing any enemy that lies in your way. Suddenly, Dynamite Jack’s stealth has turned into a repetitive sequence of set a bomb, hide, wait for the enemy to walk blindly into its vicinity, blow it up, repeat. Admittedly, you don’t always start off with the detonator, and sometimes placing a bomb at the right place requires thought. But the experience still feels inherently flawed, and unchallenging as a result.
More exotic beings are introduced as you play through the game including monsters that maul you to death and spiders that are indestructible and have a rotating line of sight. The monsters are particularly effective at giving the game an edge of trepidation as when you shine your torch on these creatures, they run for the shadows. These dynamic beings are effective when they are utilised, making the dark, gloomy corridors even more threatening.
But ultimately, Dynamite Jack is very tame. The tasks laid before you seem more like chores than challenges; get the keycard, open the door, blow up some generators, get another keycard and so on.
Dynamite Jack comes with an in-game editor where you are able to create your own levels from scratch. A multitude of user-created levels are available to play through for some added replayability. There’s certainly no lack of online content to play with, but the user-generated levels are held back by the issues with the gameplay. Some are good, but most are just redesigns of what’s already seen in the campaign.
The vibrant, colourful environment of Dynamite Jack is pulled off very well. The use of tinted light and shadow effects gives the visuals a polished yet simplistic look.
Ultimately, the dumb and unrealistic AI, repetitive level design and tensionless gameplay make Dynamite Jack a very unremarkable action-adventure. Whilst Dynamite Jack is aesthetically pleasing, it is unlikely to set your world on fire anytime soon.
Publisher: Galcon (Phil Hassey)
Price: $4.99 (£2.99)
Genre: Level-Based Stealth Action-Adventure
Pros: Slick visuals, good concept.
Cons: Very predictable AI, repetitive gameplay, not very challenging.